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Attention Men: Your Health Matters

Attention Men: Your Health Matters

June is Men’s Health Month, an opportunity to bring awareness to the health issues that impact men and to encourage men of all ages to take control of their health through better habits, routine screenings and preventive care. That also includes teaching boys, from a young age, to practice healthy habits and not to brush off health concerns due to some antiquated notion of masculinity.

Small Steps, Big Results

Every man can start taking steps to improve their health, and even small changes can make a big difference. Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake may be two of the toughest habits to break, but they can have some of the biggest impacts on health. Eating a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, and visiting the doctor annually for preventive care – and subsequent age-appropriate screening and immunizations – are essential for a healthy life.

It’s all of these elements together that can help men live their best lives. A man might spend lots of time at the gym and stick to a healthy diet rich in fiber, protein and plant-based nutrients, but if he smokes and avoids the doctor, his health may still be at significant risk.

It’s tough for anyone to break habits, but understanding the benefits can be a big motivator. For example:

  • Quitting smoking lengthens life expectancy and decreases men’s risk of developing diseases like lung cancer, throat cancer, emphysema, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, acid reflux, erectile, and kidney disease.
  • Cutting alcohol intake to a moderate level – no more than two drinks per day for men – reduces long-term risks for developing several types of cancer, liver disease and cardiovascular disease.
  • Eating fewer sugary and processed foods and less sodium and saturated fat; focusing on lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats; and aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week can help men control their blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and weight.

These factors all play a big part in the development of cardiovascular disease, stroke, certain cancers and possibly even dementia, so keeping them in check is key.

Don’t Skip the Doctor

According to American Academy of Family Physicians, men should visit their primary care doctor at least once a year for a routine checkup, not just when they’re feeling ill. At these appointments, the doctor can conduct a physical examination; ask about lifestyle and health history, take blood pressure and BMI readings, and order bloodwork. These routine screenings can detect diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease in their early, more treatable stages or help men prevent them altogether.

The doctor can also help ensure immunizations – like flu shots and vaccinations for Tdap, MMR, hepatitis A and B, HPV (if 21 or younger), meningitis, pneumococcal disease (65+) and shingles (60+) – are up to date and advise what screenings might be needed based on age and health concerns. These include:

  • Prostate cancer screenings: Based on individual risk.
  • Colorectal cancer screenings: The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk start regular screening at age 45.
  • Eye exam: Every two years for vision issues, once a year for diabetes or as needed.
  • Dental/oral health exam: Every six months.
  • Skin exam: Once a year, especially with a personal or family history of skin cancer.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening: For men ages 65 to 75 years who have ever smoked.
  • Lung cancer screening: Annual low-dose CT scans for those ages 55 to 80 years who have a 30 pack-year smoking history.
  • Sexually transmitted disease, HIV and hepatitis C screenings: As needed based on lifestyle and history.

Finally, a routine doctor’s visit can be a man’s first step to get a better handle on his mental health. Talking to a doctor about feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in favorite activities, increased anxiety or irritability, changes in sleep and appetite, and intrusive or suicidal thoughts can lead to a timely referral to a therapist who can help and/or a prescription for mood-balancing medications.

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